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Transcript: Dr. Jeff Balser talks about a new plan to eliminate barriers to diversity and inclusion at VUMC

Jul. 8, 2020, 8:25 AM


Hi everyone.

At VUMC we believe in caring for every person, regardless of their skin color, their resources, their gender, or their story. In fact, one of the four strategic directions guiding all decisions we make is to “Make Diversity and Inclusion Intentional.” Yet we know there are still barriers within the Medical Center to making that vision a reality — some hidden and some not so hidden.

We need to do more. We need to take a fresh look at the way we work, the way we think, and the way we make what often seem like routine decisions that put African Americans and other persons of color at a disadvantage. So today, even as we experience a growing health care challenge with the spread of COVID-19, we are pledging to address this challenge — one that sits at the heart of how we care for patients and for one another.

To make that happen, we need a plan. In 2019, we created the Office of Health Equity to help assure that even as we bring a more diverse group of people to study and work at VUMC, everyone experiences equality and fairness. That means fairness in their work experience, in their care delivery experiences, in their education and training and in their career opportunities. Today, I’m asking Health Equity to form a working group representing all areas of VUMC and the School of Medicine. That group is charged with identifying barriers to racial equity and to recommend both immediate and long-term action steps. To be clear, the working group will include our students and trainees, our staff and our faculty.

The group will launch listening sessions, crowd sourcing and departmental meetings in order to get your input. Your feedback and the recommendations of the working group will come to my office, and I will share those findings with you, along with our action plans.

In addition, there are some steps we can take now, even as we launch the working group. First, we will deliver anti-racism training to VUMC’s senior leaders — including me and our board of directors, our department chairs and many other health system and academic leaders. Second, we will review all existing policies and practices at VUMC, from clinical to administrative, to identify historic practices that could disadvantage people of color. That includes names of streets or structures on our campuses that demonstrate a lack of sensitivity.

Third, we will build content on racism and racial equity into the curriculum of our medical school and our many other training programs. I invite you to take a look at our plan for more details, including the processes and timelines we’ve set for this work.

After many discussions over recent weeks, it’s clear to me that these actions are important — and necessary — but are really just the beginning of a long journey we must all commit to taking together. We are committing to make VUMC a place of hope and healing for everyone, leaving no one behind. It will not be easy. But with your commitment and your leadership, I know we’ll succeed.

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk again.


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